Question: Should the word “nigger” be censored and replaced with the word “slave” in the newly published editions of Huck Finn? Defend or Reject claim Ernest Hemingway once said, “all modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain, called Huckleberry Finn:” However, Huck Finn has had its share of controversy. There has been an ongoing debate to whether or not schools should continue to teach Huck Finn because of the obvious racial components and the constant use of the word “nigger”.This word has evolved to be very hurtful and very sensitive to African-Americans and the constant repetition of this word in the novel causes teachers and students alike to be uncomfortable. A southern publishing company has censored versions of Huck Finn, and replaced the “nigger” with “slave”. Mark Twain’s seminal novel Huck Finn should not be censored because Huck Finn depicts the period’s authentic bigotry and removing the word “nigger” detracts from a full understanding of the time period.
Twain employed in a satirical vein, which seeks to expose the hypocrisy of Southern racism.In one passage, for example, Huck arrives at the Phelps’ farm and observes an explosion aboard a riverboat and Mrs. Phelps asks to whether anyone was killed. Huck replies, to Ms. Phelps’ relief that no one was seriously injured, “just a nigger. ” Here, Twain is critiquing a Southern society that would deny African Americans their common humanity—and the word slave does not really have the same bite. Additionally, substituting the word “slave” makes it sound as though all the offense lies in the “n-word” and has nothing to do with the institution of slavery.
When Huckleberry Finn was published, Mark Twain appended a note on his effort to reproduce “painstakingly” the dialects in the book, including several backwoods dialects and “the Missouri negro dialect. ” He acknowledges that he thoroughly researched and knew the true dialects of the region and what makes Huck Finn so significant in American literature isn’t just the story; it’s the richness, the detail, and the unprecedented accuracy of its spoken language. Mark Twain words should not be tinkered with because the trouble isn’t merely adulterating Twain’s text.It’s also adulterating social, economic and linguistic history that Twain is trying to satirize and explain in Huck Finn.
Mark Twain’s original goal in writing Huck Finn was to stir up people in order to transcend race and evolve as a people. His consciousness and awareness is larger than that of any of the characters in the novel, including Huck. Part of what makes the book so effective is the fact that Huck is too innocent and ignorant to understand what’s wrong with his society and what’s right about his own transgressive behavior.Twain, on the other hand, knows the result. The world of Huck serves as a living reminder of where we’ve been as a people. Huck and Jim’s friendship serves as a beacon of a mutual respect between races.
The novel is told from the perspective of Huck, who, as the product of a deformed society, has much to learn from Jim. Huck discovers that Jim has escaped in order to avoid being separated from his family. And Jim plans to use this freedom to reclaim his wife and children. Huck concludes that that Jim loves his family just as much as any white man.This serves as another example of Twain using satire to convey his point that black people are human and have feelings, contrary to popular belief. Huck and Jim enjoy a degree of equality and idyllic life while on the raft and the river. But when they go ashore or the King and Duke invade the raft and Huck and Jim encounter violence, corruption, greed, avarice, ignorance, and brutality.
The core of this depraved society is the institution of slavery. Huck Finn cannot simply be taken out of the curriculum; it is too important a novel for it not to be taught.The key component in teaching Huck Finn is properly establishing historical context of slavery and race relations in nineteenth-century America. There is no way to “clean up” Twain without doing irreparable harm to the truth of his work.Works CitedCarey-Webb, Allen.
“Racism and “Huckleberry Finn”: Censorship, Dialogue, and Chang. ” The English Journal 82. 7 (1992): 22-34. JSTOR. Web. 9 Feb. 2011.
Nelson, Jill. “The Word ‘Nigger’ Is Part of Our Lexicon – Room for Debate – NYTimes. com. ” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia.
Web. 11 Feb. 2011. .